published Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Hamilton County commissioners appoint 2 magistrates

HOW THEY VOTED

* For Larry Ables

Chester Bankston

Greg Beck

Tim Boyd

Larry Henry

Warren Mackey

Fred Skillern

* For Bob Davis

Chester Bankston

Greg Beck

Tim Boyd

Warren Mackey

* For Jeff Davis

Joe Graham

Jim Fields

Marty Haynes

Larry Henry

Fred Skillern

* For Phillip Strang

Jim Fields

Joe Graham

* For Christy Jindra

Marty Haynes

Hamilton County commissioners picked two men Wednesday to serve as magistrates for the next year, renewing one current magistrate's post and discontinuing another's.

Commissioners chose to keep Larry Ables as magistrate, but were one vote shy of keeping current magistrate Bob Davis. Instead they chose Hixson attorney Jeff Davis.

Magistrates set bonds for recently arrested inmates and sign search warrants when General Sessions Court judges are not available. Hamilton County has four magistrates who rotate their shifts at the Hamilton County Jail.

The position is a one-year term.

Ables has been a magistrate since 2007, and Bob Davis has served three terms as magistrate with a one-year break in service.

Commissioners also voted to appoint magistrate Randy Russell as chief magistrate in a 5-4 vote over Ables, who now holds the post.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry, who is Ables' uncle, cast the deciding vote for Russell.

"Honestly, I felt like we needed to have a rotation, and I don't see a problem with doing that. I felt Mr. Russell was well qualified," Henry said.

Ables said the decisions -- including his uncle's vote -- surprised him.

"I had no indication there were any problems brought up during our term, and it was my belief that things would remain as they were," said Ables. "Bob did a fine job. But it's the commission's decision, and it is year by year."

Commission Vice Chairman Fred Skillern said he did not have full confidence in Bob Davis.

"Every time we asked him a question, he was trying to tell us how to run things. I wasn't comfortable with that," Skillern said. "But I also voted against eight other people, not just him."

Bob Davis could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ten candidates were interviewed for the magistrate position last week.

Jeff Davis, who runs his own law office, graduated from law school in 2010. But several commissioners said they thought his youth would be an asset.

"He's fresh," said Henry. "He has good ideas, new ideas. He has the right temperament for the job. I was impressed with him."

The position has an annual salary of $58,000, with the chief magistrate paid an additional $5,000. Ables and Jeff Davis will begin their terms on Nov. 3.

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